Google Brings Security Staff In-House: A New Trend?

It’s a common to hear that a company will spin off part of its workforce to contractors, but not the idea of bringing workers, often low-paid, back into a corporate environment. So the news that Google Google would bring its security workers back in-house from a contract firm was unusual. More than a rumor, here’s a statement that the company sent me as confirmation:

Building an in-house security team is something we are excited to do. A year ago we in-sourced the Google security operations center and we are looking forward to making these valued positions both full- and part-time Google employees.

Should the move turn into a Silicon Valley trend, it could be the beginning of significantly improving the fortunes of thousands of people in the service industries.

There are few places where the difference between the well-off and struggling is sharper than in the parts of California that are home to such high tech giants as Google, Apple Apple, and Facebook. An influx of money and highly-paid technical staff have put heavy pressure of housing and created a high tech underclass. People clean bathrooms, serve food, drive shuttle buses, monitor facility security, and perform other services that high tech companies need done.

A sandwich bar at Google's Mountain View headquarters.

A sandwich bar at Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

But the people are managed as contractors and paid low wages, particularly in expensive Silicon Valley, without benefits and often less than full-time, according to USA Today. And yet, they work for large corporations that land billions in annual profits and are among the most profitable companies in the entire world.

Companies outsource workers to help reduce their own costs and regulatory liabilities. There is a price to be paid, and it’s typically by the workers. The contracting firms need to make a profit, and unless they are either astonishingly efficient or bring in large enough sums from the outsourcing companies, it likely means that worker incomes and/or benefits will take a hit.

Even a shift in benefits can be devastating to lower-income families. For example, a recent survey commissioned by showed that 41 percent of people who made less than $30,000 had more medical debt than emergency savings.

But the Google security personnel will land the impressive benefits the company provides, including health insurance and on-staff doctors and nurses, free legal advice and group discounts on legal services, and reimbursed education, which can help make the difference between remaining in a low-income job or advancement.

Although there have been widespread protests, particularly in San Francisco, about the impact that high tech companies have on the working poor, Google insists that criticism has not been a factor in the move, which started about a year ago.

Perhaps it was nothing more than a business decision. Google did not answer my question about whether it would bring other contracted services, like food preparation, in house again. So security personnel may have been particularly lucky. But the shift shows that companies can, indeed, find a business benefit in having employees rather than contracted workers. If the concept catches on more broadly, it would be good news for workers and, ultimately, the overall economy.

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